4 Alarm Clocks to Help You Rise and Shine

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4 Alarm Clocks to Help You Rise and Shine

If you have trouble waking up in the morning, you've probably tried everything to wake from your comatose state — almost everything. Put down your rolling, flying, or somersaulting alarm clock and take down the water bucket rig over your bed. There's a much simpler solution: sunlight.

Sunrise alarm clocks and lights aim to mimic the best parts of dawn, from colors to relaxing sounds. Waking up to the gradual increase of light offers a less jarring experience than the blaring alarms you know and detest. We chose the best dawn simulating options out there to help you really rise and shine. 

01

Best Premium Sunrise Alarm Clock

Best Premium Sunrise Alarm Clock

Philips continues to lead the charge with its suite of wake-up lights and the HF3520 is still the best in the class. Though it's imperfect, you get the the most features and customization options in an effective sunrise alarm clock.

How Does It Work?

Since there are so many features in this alarm clock, let's focus on the buttons. The front of the light is essentially a touchscreen. It displays the main "buttons" you'll need for setting the time, alarms, and soundscapes: menu, select, a plus sign, and a minus sign. You can also touch the entire display face to activate the snooze function.

"Both the sunrise and sunset (fall-asleep) feature transition in brightness and color. This addition of red to the sunrise simulation helps you fall asleep and wake up."

The physical buttons are small and spaced out along the top rim. There are two "alarm profile" buttons that allow you to turn the alarms on and off. You can also make any last-minute adjustments to the alarm time. When you set your alarms, that time is when the sunrise simulation will reach peak brightness.

A sun button turns the lamp on and off while an FM button turns on the FM radio. Both of the previous buttons are in the middle of two buttons that let you control the brightness and volume, respectively. The plus and minus signs on the display act as the FM tuner. Finally, there's a button with sleepy face on it which activates the sunset feature and lets you choose how long the shut-off timer is.

What Works?

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  • This model offers realistic sun hues across the red, orange, and yellow spectrum. Both the sunrise and sunset (fall-asleep) feature transition in brightness and color. This addition of red to the sunrise simulation helps you fall asleep and wake up.

  • You customize the sunrise duration to take 20, 25, 30 (default), or 40 minutes. If you find that you need less or more time to wake up, you have some wiggle room.

  • You can exclusively use this as a light. This wake-up light isn't massive, but it is unusually shaped, so it's handy that it can replace your lamp. You can also set the light to a timer if you like to read before you sleep.

  • There are several sound alarm options. Five preset soundscapes can set the scene for falling asleep or waking up. The FM radio offers a classic alarm function for people who want a little music or talk radio in the morning. Whichever sound you choose, it will fade in once the clock reaches your desired brightness.

  • You can opt for a completely quiet alarm if you want to minimize the chances of waking someone else or if you're hard of hearing.

  • The internal memory will keep your alarm settings if the alarm clock loses power.

  • You can set two different alarms. This allows you to set a time for the weekdays and weekends.

What Could Be Better?

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  • There's a learning curve to using this wake-up light. The directions have fairly easy to follow instructions and images, but being able to access the alarms from the top buttons and the display is confusing in practice.

  • Speaking of buttons, where are they? You either have to feel around the top to find them or use the buttons in front. Either experience is especially difficult when the light is on (re: when you wake up).

  • You have to set the alarm every night. In order to turn the alarm off, you press its corresponding alarm button. A popular user reported method to avoid turning the alarm back on each night is simply pressing the button twice.

  • Some users report poor speaker quality, but we found that the sound fidelity was adequate for the nature sounds and radio.

Warranty and Customer Support

We highly recommend registering your wake-up light with Philips. You'll be covered by their two-year warranty and 90-day money back guarantee. Customer support isn't always lightning fast, but they offer reasonable solutions with a pleasant demeanor. 

02

Best Budget Sunrise Alarm Clock

Best Budget Sunrise Alarm Clock

Many companies have tried to imitate this Philips Wake-up Light, but none succeeded (we checked). For less than half the price of the HF3520, the HF3500/60 takes out the bells and whistles and gives you straightforward alarm clock.

How Does It Work?

"Since there are fewer features, less functions are programmed into each button."

First of all, there are two sneaky, little buttons on the kickstand that you might miss if you're the kind of person who doesn't read directions. The left button helps you set the clock display's brightness while the right button helps you set the time or toggle between a 12 and 24 hour clock.

On the front, you have four buttons: a sun, a plus sign, a minus sign, and a bell. The sun button turns the light on and off. The bell button lets you turn on and set your alarm. You'll know the alarm is on via a tiny bell on the clock display. When you set your alarms, that is when the sunrise simulation will reach peak brightness.

The plus and minus buttons help you set your alarm, the time, and adjust the alarm brightness. You can also tap the top of the alarm clock to activate the snooze feature.

What Works?

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  • You can use this alarm clock as a lamp. It's bright enough to light a small room or to use as a reading light.

  • There's a backup sound alarm that starts once the sunrise has reached its peak brightness.

  • The buttons you'll use the most are fairly intuitive. Since there are fewer features, less functions are programmed into each button.

What Could Be Better?

  • The clock display is too bright. Even on the clock's lowest brightness settings, some reviewers found that it was difficult to fall asleep with the clock facing them.

  • The only sound alarm is a beep. Though the beep doesn't come on until you should be awake or stirring, the beep is loud and grating. You cannot adjust the volume of the sound alarm, nor can you opt for silence.

  • You can only set one alarm, so you'll have to adjust it on your days off or simply not use it.

Warranty and Customer Support

We highly recommend registering your wake-up light with Philips. You'll be covered by their two-year warranty and 90-day money back guarantee. Customer support isn't always lightning fast, but they offer reasonable solutions with a pleasant demeanor. 

03

Best Portable Dual-Purpose Sunrise Alarm Clock

Best Portable Dual-Purpose Sunrise Alarm Clock

If you're always in a different time zone and need a sunrise alarm clock that fits in your carry-on, you're in luck. Nature Bright's Sun Bliss is an adorably small and surprising powerful two-in-one sunrise alarm clock. The lights can get considerably brighter than the average sunrise alarm clock so they can be used for light therapy during the day.

How Does It Work?

There are six buttons on the Sun Bliss: a power symbol, a page icon (a menu), a curved arrow icon (enter), a circle icon (light therapy), an up arrow, and a down arrow.

When you press the menu button four icons appear on the left side of the display. You can navigate through the options by pressing menu repeatedly and enter to select the icon.

You can go to the clock icon, the traditional alarm clock icon (to set the sunrise alarm), the bell icon (to set the backup sound alarm), or the light therapy circle icon.

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What Works?

  • The small device can easily fit into a work bag or luggage and won't take up much space on a nightstand or desk.

  • The device functions as both a sunrise alarm clock and a light therapy tool that can be used during the day.

  • There's a backup sound alarm of birds chirping that starts once the alarm is at peak brightness.

  • The clock will remember the alarm settings (not the time) if it loses power. This is a great feature since it's a bit of a pain to set everything and you'll be unplugging it on a regular basis.

  • The clock comes with a universal power adapter, for those international trips.

  • The light therapy mode allows you to set a timer (up to 59 minutes) so you don't overexpose your eyes to the bright light.

What Could Be Better?

  • "The light is a cool white instead of a warm yellow, so it might be a jarringly different experience to a typical sunrise alarm"

    The button icons and functions are a bit confusing. If you lose the instructions (and don't have access to our light) and use this light infrequently, the process of changing the alarms and settings will be a bit frustrating.

  • You have to keep the power (and display) on in order to use the alarm functions. This might be a dealbreaker for people who need to sleep in completely dark rooms.

  • The light is a cool white instead of a warm yellow, so it might be a jarringly different experience to a typical sunrise alarm.

  • You have to set the sunrise and sound alarms separately, but the sound alarm cannot stand alone. The sunrise alarm will function on its own, but the sound alarm needs the sunrise alarm to be activated in order to work.

  • The cord is on the short side which could be a problem if you're short on outlets.

Warranty and Customer Support

Nature Bright's customer service is a little hit or miss, but they offer a one-year warranty. You also get the benefit of a 30-day, unconditional return policy.

04

Best Light Alarm for Minimalists and Techies

Best Light Alarm for Minimalists and Techies

If you want the lowest amount of impact on your decor and are fairly tech-savvy, a smart LED bulb could become your wake-up light. We excluded bulbs that require a hub since you'll only need one for this purpose. We found that WiFi-connected bulbs were a little more reliable than Bluetooth-connected bulbs. After some testing and tinkering, Flux's 10W WiFi Smart Bulb came out on top.

How Does It Work?

First, you download the Flux Lighting WiFi app (available for iOS and Android) and screw in your light bulb. Turn on the lamp or fixture. You'll also want to switch to the 2.4 GHz WiFi network on your phone.

"The bulb works with Amazon Alexa, IFTTT, and Google Home."

Now that you're ready to go, launch the app and create an account. You'll be asked to upgrade the app, but this will send you to the Flux WiFi Pro app. You don't want to go there, trust us.

The account will help you save your settings in Flux's cloud storage. Follow the in-app setup instructions and connect to the WiFi network associated with your bulb.

In the app, you'll be able to change the bulb's color and brightness in real time. You can set timers (these function more like alarms) by pressing the alarm clock icon in the top right of your screen. These can be simple on/off and color change timers or a sunrise/sunset timer.

Note: You need to keep the power to the lamp or fixture on in order for any of the features to work. You can turn the light on and off in the app or connect it to a smart assistance to turn it off by a voice command.

What Works?

  • You can set a timer to different colors. It was easy for us to set timers to turn the light on with a melatonin-activating red hue at night and turn off at a later hour.

  • You can set multiple, day-specific alarms to fit your schedule. Whether you just want to differentiate between weekdays and weekends or have a more nuanced day-to-day, you won't have to worry about changing your alarm all the time.

  • The bulb works with Amazon Alexa, IFTTT, and Google Home, so you can adjust the automation from more places than just the app.

  • You can set the sunrise and sunset durations to last for up to 30 minutes. Go ahead, set it for 23 minutes.

  • You can adjust the peak brightness for the alarm to match your light sensitivity.

  • The Flux customer service team is responsive and eager to help. We found that the setup process was easy in almost all of our attempts, but their team was extremely helpful the one time we had issues.

What Could Be Better?

  • The sunrise and sunset features are locked on a warm white, but we didn't find the white to be too aggressive. If you really want to customize the light, you'll have to create an advanced IFTTT applet.

  • The app itself is a bit dated. The user interface isn't great, but it does what it's supposed to do and will likely improve in subsequent updates.

  • The connection to the bulb can be unstable. This is an issue with all hub-less smart bulbs, and we found that our bulb was reliable. Plus, if issues should arise, we feel confident putting you in the hands of their customer service team.

  • If you manually turn off the light switch or lamp, you'll cut the power to the bulb. This means it won't be able to communicate with the app/your WiFi to turn on. Luckily, the LED bulb doesn't draw a lot of energy when you turn it off with the app or a smart assistant.

Warranty and Customer Support

Did we mention Flux's great customer support? Their team was responsive and eager to troubleshoot. Flux also offers a 100% money-back guarantee within 30 days and a two-year warranty. 

05

Honorable Mentions: Sunrise Alarm Clocks and Lights

Honorable Mentions: Sunrise Alarm Clocks and Lights

Sunrise alarm clocks are fairly new light therapy tools that are still finding their footing. There were a few additional products that try some new tricks, but fell too short of the mark for us to recommend them.

Sleepace Nox and Nox Music

We tried out both of Sleepace's sleep lights, since they have competing features. The Nox has a clock display, connects via WiFi, and provides information about your bedroom's air quality. The Nox Music is clockless, connects via Bluetooth, and also works as a speaker. They both have a USB port to help you charge phone, which is a great feature in something that's taking away an outlet near your bed.

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We were initially more interested in the Nox Music because we thought users could wake up to their own music via the Bluetooth connection. In our tests, we could not use our own music and were stuck with the app's presets. We also found that the sunrise duration was only two minutes long. To make matters worse, the light turned off eight minutes after the alarms started. This short sunrise period means that, depending on your light sensitivity, you could either sleep through the alarm or wake up too suddenly.

The name gives it away: Sleepace is more concerned with your sleep. In lieu of using their sleep sensor, your phone acts as a movement sensor and provides a detailed sleep report when you wake up.

They bank on you using their Smart Wake-up feature that uses that data to start the alarm during your lightest sleep. By trying to lock you into their ecosystem, the functionality of their individual products are stunted.

Philips Somneo

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This new wake-up light from Philips has a couple of things on our wish list: an auxiliary port for customizable alarm music and a USB port for device charging. Since it's so new, we can't speak to its durability, plus it seems to have some of the ailments of Philips' other sunrise alarm clocks.

The speakers underperform when using them for anything other than soundscapes, it's not easy to use, and there's still no internal battery. Oh yeah, it's also nearly $200. For that price tag, we expected a better product, so we don't feel comfortable recommending it just yet.

LIFX A19 WiFi Smart Bulb

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Personally, the LIFX A19 bulb won me over. LIFX offers a better app and more smart connectivity options, but the customer service is lackluster. On top of that, the durability of the hardware seems far less reliable than Flux's and the bulb's shape makes it impossible to use in many lamps. The setup process was arduous at best, but since I've gotten it up and running, I've enjoyed the overall experience.

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There are two ways to set a sunrise or sunset alarm in the LIFX app. You can use their "Day & Dusk" tab in the app that lets you set times for "Wake up," "Day," "Evening," and "Night Light." Each option can be deselected if you only want Wake up and Night Light.

Though this tab looks great, the only thing you can really change is the time. The colors are from their white light selection, starting at a cool, bluish white that changes into a neutral white and then warmer, yellow-orange tones in the evening.

On the "My Home" page, you can press the plus icon to add a "schedule." Here you can choose from a small, but comprehensive selection of colors, the peak brightness, and the fade duration (up to 60 minutes). The time you choose is when the fade on or off begins. This feature is pretty hit or miss, so my alarm runs through a premade IFTTT applet.

Gentle Wakeup App (Android)

If you're still not sure where to start or just want to see if a sunrise alarm clock might work for you, try out the Gentle Wakeup App. This alarm clock app is only available on Android. Though many users have found success using the app on their phone, we recommend testing it with a tablet so you get more light. You'll get to experience the general functions of a wake-up light and figure out which features are more important to you.

Over the past couple of decades, light therapy, wake-up lights, and sunrise alarm clocks have become more popular in Northern Europe. In more recent years, they made the trip across the Atlantic and are ready to help you welcome the day.

Light therapy, for the most part, is meant to lessen the effects of seasonal affective disorder and other mood or sleep disorders. The Mayo Clinic suggests that light therapy yields the best results if experienced within an hour of waking for 20–30 minutes. Sunrise alarm clocks, or wake-up lights, fold these recommendations into one by using the gradual increase of light to wake you.

Though you can get a sunrise alarm clock without a prescription, you should let your doctor know if you plan to start using one, especially if you have a mood/personality disorder.

Who benefits from sunrise alarm clocks?

"What might work for you might be uncomfortable for someone else."

Sunrise alarm clocks can usually help the average person have better wake-up experiences by gently lulling them out of deep sleep. If you have a lifestyle or health issues that affect your sleep habits, these devices can be especially beneficial.

If you live in a region or have a bedroom that doesn't get a lot of sunlight, sunrise alarm clocks can help you have a healthier circadian rhythm. People who sleep outside of standard nighttime hours or travel frequently can wake up more naturally, regardless of the hour. These light-based alarms are also an accessible alarm option for deaf people and people who are hard of hearing.

What features should you look for?

Not all sunrise alarms are created equally. What might work for you might be uncomfortable for someone else. Here are a few features to consider to get you waking up on the right side of the bed.

  • Type of light bulb: The majority of sunrise alarm clocks use LEDs, but a few use warmer halogen bulbs. The former keep the lights cooler to the touch, but some people might enjoy the sun-like warmth of the latter.
  • Light hue options: Any light color will wake you up, but some colors are better suited for the task. Ideally, you want your sunrise to start with a red or deep orange hue and then slowly transition to a yellow or even warm white hue. This range of colors offers the most realistic dawn simulation. Light therapy lamps tend to emit hyper-stimulating white or blue light (think about how your phone keeps you up at night). These cooler tones can be jarring to some and more effective to others in a wake-up light.
  • Sunrise duration: From our own tests and the reviews of others, we've found that 30 minutes is the sweet spot for the "sunrise" duration. If you think you might need more or less time, we recommend choosing a wake-up light that gives a few options.
  • "Any light color will wake you up, but some colors are better suited for the task."
  • Size: If you don't have any more room on your nightstand (or maybe you don't have a nightstand at all), product dimensions are your friend. Another option for people with limited space would be a smart LED bulb. Many of them have a sunrise alarm function and give you access to millions of colors.
  • Sleep aids: Half the battle of waking up is getting a good night's sleep in the first place. Some alarms offer a sunset feature that emits a red light that helps you produce melatonin. You could also consider alarms that feature white noise or soundscapes that fade out over time.
  • Sound alarm: As a failsafe, a classic alarm tone, nature sounds, white noise, FM radio, and/or the user's music can be programmed into the clock. You should note whether you can adjust the volume of these options and at what point they turn on during the sunrise simulation. Some gradually fade in from the start while others start once the light is at its peak brightness.
  • Internal memory: To our dismay, we couldn't find any sunrise alarm clocks or lights with a battery backup. The next best thing would be to remember the alarm settings. App-connected products often have you create account, so you can save your alarms to a cloud-based storage.
  • App connectivity: Common issues for sunrise alarm clocks are poorly designed buttons and complicated operating instructions. Using an app gives you more intuitive control over your wake-up light and, typically, the option to set alarms for different days of the week. Given the impact of phones' blue light on our ability to sleep, however, some users might not want to be too tethered to an app.
  • Light therapy: Alarm clocks that also work as light therapy boxes (usually can reach 10,000 lux while alarms hover around 250 lux) can be useful to people with SAD. The light's hue can impact user satisfaction. While a light blue tone can be an exciting alternative to warm yellow tones, it could prove to be overstimulating throughout the course of a day.

How did we choose our picks?

First, we dove into why these alarms are effective and what features embrace the (albeit limited) science behind light therapy. Through analyzing user reviews and the recommendations of various publications, we sifted out the cheap imitators and bad eggs from the pack. We compared the functionality of the best options and tested different sunrise alarm clocks to determine which models would be the best for your bedroom.

Ultimately, we wanted you to enjoy a reliable alarm, some customizable features, relatively easy to understand instructions, and great customer service. Most of these alarm clocks fall between $60 and $150, so we also valued comprehensive warranty and refund policies.

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The Guide Team